The Current

War reporter Sebastian Junger on why peace can be more traumatic for vets than war

Junger argues it is the experience of returning home, and not the trauma of war, behind PTSD.
Sebastian Junger (CP/Chris Young)

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On The Current, longtime war correspondent and bestselling author, Sebastian Junger, elaborates on his new book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Junger believes it is the experience of returning home, and not the trauma of war, that is behind PTSD.

At odds with popular opinion, Junger argues there is an improvement in mental health during a time of calamity, citing examples such as the lowered psychiatric admissions during the London Blitz, and the overall improvement in mental well-being throughout the Northern Ireland conflict.

If you send men off to war in a platoon they get very, very close. In some ways they're happier even though they're in a war zone. And then they come back to modern society, and even though they're safer, emotionally, they feel like they're in danger because they're by themselves.- Sebastian Junger

According to Junger, times of strife cause people to come together, which buffers them from their psychological demons by appealing to deprived egalitarian and community impulses.  

Junger claims the individualistic nature of modern society lacks the community we have evolved to need.

The bonds developed between soldiers is akin to the egalitarian relations of tribal societies, argues Junger, and losing those connections in returning to society likely informs some instances of PTSD among soldiers. He points to the inconsistency that only 10 per cent of American soldiers have seen combat, and yet 50 per cent have applied for PTSD care.

PTSD is the word that we have, but it actually may be more a transition disorder-Sebastian Junger says soldiers may be noticing the alienation of western society in a way the rest of us don't.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal